Trigger warnings on this short story. Contains self harm, self mutilation, dysphoria, medical information and psychological triggers. –Anne
“Ok, Poindexter show me what you got!”
I furiously typed away at the keyboard, I’m in my bodysuit. It’s a Tuesday. I know I’m replaying the last few days in my head.
//c root -tw key -22 -c -t -r
/ reset pss.cyn.shell 12 b 2 matrix -q
/ shell – Cynthia-12 – root
Login reset matrix 12 by 2 password lock active
“Ha! Let’s see you get past that! Fucker!”
I took a drink of my can of Mother. It’s a habit; A bad one I haven’t got myself out of yet.
The code ran and the hacker, whoever they were couldn’t get past the set up. It was resetting root, admin, and the user passwords with a matrix of 12 by 2 random characters. Only I knew what they where. It would reset them every 24 hours. I would get the new set logged into a set file accessible with the admin passwords the AFP had set for this day. All from a protocol, I had set. Each one was about 30 words long, from randomised sets of poetry. Phrases were easier to remember, after all. Alphanumeric’s where no good when you had to type 2 sets of 12 characters. I could make it more, but nothing yet had got past this (I had the next layer set with a. 24 by 6 characters matrix just to be sure).
The hacker tried a few things like trying to reset the system to the state it was before my shell had activated. The best defense was a good offense while he tried (and failed to) do that the lineman program I had ran everything he had. I made a image of all his drives and locations. In a second I was able to send them all to my partner. Police partner that is.
I dail, he picks up first ring.
“Their you go Sgt. Davis, his address, Medicare, browser history and his entire drive. You have everything he’s done. Including two banks he’s nicked credit off, three ISPs he’s got data from and a sperm donation he’s deposited at. If you want I can give you his DNA file. Even the donation place has rejected him! Though clearly they haven’t told him. They are using it for cloning spare organs. Ha. Flappers got some good liver genes and that’s it.”
I suppose some people would think it vulgar to see an 20 year-old Japanese woman in a police uniform use some of the language I do, but I’m not all I seem.
“Thanks Cynthia, your a real credit to the team. I’ll get the nab team on him. Remind me to take you out of a drink someday soon.”
“Ha!” I cracked up, almost spilling my Mother all over the keyboard. “You know I can’t fucking take this body out of the building until its paid off! I doubt you would be so kind to my real one.”
“No, Cynthia I mean your real one. Just two blokes having a beer.”
“I am not a bloke. Don’t. I can’t fucking drink alcohol regardless.” I start to type furiously from my station, I want to run out but I try to keep my cool for now. I just manage to keep the phone on the hook.
“Sorry, I forget.” Sgt. Davis in a rather apologetic tone. He’s not a bad guy, just not the quickest fox in the hen house.
I shut off the phone receiver before I start crying, or insulting my boss, or both. I’m always more emotional than I seem. Its hard to be tough, I never really wanted to be it, at that. It still looked like trying to ignore your true self.
”I’m not male. I’m Cynthia. I’m a woman. I can have feelings and feel them. It’s ok to feel feelings it doesn’t make you week it makes you strong.”
I recite the mantras my psychiatrist gave me. She’s so helpful to me.
I decide it’s time for a break so I have my lunch (protein synthesis item 22, caffeine enhanced Orange juice) then get back to my desk.
After a few hours of less interesting security protocols and adding or modifying of security programs. I then pack up my work. It’s time to go home. Thirty-Three floors up.
Yeah, I live in the new Australian Federal Police building. It’s me and a few other officers who have special needs. Either always do night shifts, or are just so committed to the job it just makes more sense. Family’s not really a thing when you live for your work. Most of us send money to other parts of the family or pay of debts we got before we joined. More often both.
My home was a (not special) concrete box on the top floor of the building. I have a few neat little things in my contract that allows this. Mostly, because my real body lives here. I never leave the building. I’m a “shut-in”, with my own room in a public service building. It’s just us poor sods who have nothing else or otherwise can’t leave.
I open my door, walk in and get undressed. I look at my real body one last time before I step into the maintenance cube.
I shut my eyes.
I wake up in my other body.
Black unwashed hair. Olive-Cream coloured unwashed skin. I needed to go to the bathroom. Urgh. As usual, I had the fucking morning glory. I hate that. Being in my real body, the suit, it simulates sleep. Like a dream state where I am my real self.
After I’ve been to the loo, I shower. Trying not to look at my body too much. It needs washing more often. Better looking after. I hate it though.
I’m fucking stuck in it for now though. As I shower that fucking memory plays in my head.
I do the regulation exercises. With the same amount of effort that anyone who very much wants to be out of the world does.
I do my hair and take my medicines.
I eat the nutritional supplements I need to maintain this body. I cut my hair and nails.
It’s time to do that. End of the month.
I get into the bath, shave all my other body hair. Every little bit needs to be gone. Then and only then will… no…. No! … fuck.
The memory managed to get to me.
“Unfortunately you can’t take HRT, Brian. You would die. Your disease I’m afraid. It’s not terminal, but the HRT, it will..”
“I know. I know. I clot out and stroke or worse. And anti clotting won’t help.”
The endocrinologist nods. “You knew already.”
I get up to walk out of the office before I start crying. I can’t deal with this. “Yes. Just needed a second opinion doc. Thanks. ”
I walked home and cried for about 3 hours. Thats when I had the idea to build / buy Cynthia. I’m 18, in a comfy tracksuit. It’s got Mother and coffee stains on it and feels like a old friend. It’s one of the few male clothes I own.
I’m Cynthia. I know I am. I just can’t appear that way to the world outside the internet. I can get home, put my proper clothes on. I can be Cynthia online. I know I can start to get the money together to build or buy a cyber suit.
My thrombosis is a disease that even nanomacines can’t fix yet. Not for a long, long while. You would have to replace all the blood in my body, all my marrow, all the cells that make my marrow and all of the fualty genes that cause me to have Type O negative blood with factor V Leiden (a condition I can thank my fucking useless father for). It’s like asking for a miracle. I can’t ever get to my true self. Only online or in a cyber suit. That’s all I get. I just can’t deal.
I remember cutting myself. My scars for the future. Blood. It’s just another reminder of this broken body. It’s not very good for me either. It clots fast, but not evenly. It’s oddly entertaining in a way, but in a minute or two I get the band aids. I never cut more than a tiny amount. If I did I would clot and clot until I ended up in hospital again. I can’t fucking deal with hospitals. Or is it that I never have the guts to go through with it, or is it I always have the guts to stop myself?
I bleed slightly, take out some band-aids. Slap them on then cry into oblivion.
I’m finished shaving. Crying in a ball in the bath.
The gloomy, cloudy Canberra winter day. I am back as Cynthia. In my, what I will loosely call my apartment.
It’s my first day as Cynthia. I’m in a cafe hacking a bank. It’s a “bleeding heart” job if you’ll excuse the pun. You take all the incoming transactions, you hold them for a fraction of a minute to get shares and interest thats going up, sell them a fraction of a minute later. Profits go to you, the rest goes back to the bank.
No one can ever spot it. (I fool myself)
Banks themselves do this. All the time. I’m just doing the same, again on the top. I’m using the cash to pay for my new cyber body. And spare parts, of course.
Then this man sits near me. He has a mop of curly hair, almost seems like a wig. A blue suit with red shirt, silver black tie pinned down. He has a cybernetic left eye. I can tell in this body. Normal people can’t spot them they have got so good.
He looks at me as I type. I stick out my tongue at him. I can do without the attention. He probably thinks I’m a robot sex worker. This body model looks the part. I wanted to look like this, for as long as I can remember. Doesn’t mean I have to act like a sex worker, not that their is anything wrong with that, just not my bag.
Anyone with the cash can get a synth controller and connect it to a cyber body like this, then do what they want. Of course, the cost isn’t small. This model costs up to 80,000 credits. And that’s on the black market, retail its more like 120,000. I went retail. No way I’m getting done for black market trading in cyber goods. Hacking, sure that I am happy to serve for, but I’m not a pirate, I’m a thief. And a damn good one. I am sure the distinction isn’t much to non-crims but it’s a whole universe of difference to me.
Mr Mophair looks a little taken aback then opens his own laptop. It’s sleek, red, and is the newest model. Blegh. Corporate geek. He opens his index finger and plugs a BSN into the shunt and is doing whatever he is doing when his coffee and bagel arrives.
I’m kind of surprised he’s using a BSN. I suppose he’s pretty happy with the security of it. I could, technically do all I am doing from a secure network at home. Doing it on a cheap ass laptop in my cyber body gives me a lot more security as I’m not personally attached to it . Public unsecured networks with my own IP switcher to make things a bit more fun for anyone trying to track me. This is Childs play.
I’ve done the bank trick a few times with different banks, different sorts of shares, bonds, shorts. I never use crypto, it keeps all the transactions, like why would you want someone else to look at your transitions? Its like a big sign saying “hello you are here”. Everything filtered through dummy accounts and all that jazz. I am pretty confident I have everything set up right.
Of course, as it is often said only n00bz th7nk they can’t g3t pwwwnd.
Anyone can get pwwwnd. Anyone. Even me. Watch.
So today I’m at a new cafe, in a different part of the city. It’s been about 6-12 months since I started doing this, so I know this has to be the last place I hit. I know any day now the current target banks will notice.
I’m doubling the IP switches, going through three layers of different routers and I even have a return traffic logger looking to see if someone is watching me.
Then I see him. Mr Mophair. He walks into the cafe and looks right at me. I try and ignore him. This city isn’t big. It’s not too uncommon to see the same person in the different places at different times. He walks up to me and stares.
”Got a problem, Poindexter?”
I get irritated at him standing over me.
That gets my attention.
He sits across from me.
”Let me guess, triple logger blinding?”
He nodded. Fuck. The guy had spotted me the first time I saw him. He’s just been waiting to pounce.
”I’m under arrest?”
”On if you are willing to give up what you stole and come work for me.”
I stare at him. He seems serious.
”I have a record of everything you did. It wasn’t easy. I happened only to find it because I was investigating the banks. But I have enough evidence to either arrest you or, with approval from my boss, get you to sign this.”
He pushed a sheet of paper to me.
I looked at him. I popped the gum I happened to be chewing. Then when a few seconds had passed I picked it up.
It’s a contract agreement. It’s all in law speak with hitherto’s, therefore, theys, party one and party two and so on. I’m able to follow the general gist of it. My mum had been a lawyer so I knew some of what I needed to know. It basically said I give up my life of crime for helping the federal police catch people like me who aren’t as good.
I look at Mr Mophair. I nod.
”You could have done this at the second bank I shifted. Why now?”
Mophair brushed his brow.
”Your hacks where helping my investigation. I have enough to charge some pretty big bank bosses now. It seemed like the best point.”
I sit and contemplate. Time passes. He sips a coffee.
”you know this isn’t my real body yeah?”
”I gathered. Your trans? Or is it just another layer of security?”
”So you prefer she/ her pronouns?”
”Yes. Please. I’m Cynthia. Not that other name you called me.”
The rest. Well you know.
Mophair is really Commissioner Aldren. My boss’s boss now since I helped him with the bank job. I’m just an inspector. I don’t really feel the need for promotion. Just catching stupid hackers and idiots who think they are the first to do some white-collar crime.
I spend as much time in my suit as I can, but I can’t take it out if the building till I’ve paid it off. A few more months.
I’m not going to go do some other job. It’s not worth the risks. Here I get my suit and all the maintenance I will ever need. One day I might even convince the building guy to let me have a cat. Even if it costs me a date or two.
I get to be me as long as I can and there is nothing worth more than that.